Sunday, April 7, 2013

Implants allow sixth-grader to hear by Elizabeth Richards

Madison Mooradian is a lot like any other sixth grader, with one key exception – she was born profoundly deaf.  With the help of cochlear implants, Madison can hear and speak clearly.  She is an honor roll student and on the student council at Windham Middle School.
Born deaf due to a genetic disorder, Madison wore hearing aids until she was approximately 12 months old.  When her parents realized there was no benefit to the aids, they began to explore other options.  After visiting an auditory oral school, and hearing the deaf children speaking, they learned of cochlear implants, and decided it was the right choice for their family. “We are a verbal family.  We don’t have any other deafness in our family, so we thought cochlear implants were the best way to go,” said Madison’s mother, Robbyn Mooradian.

At the time, in 2001, cochlear implants were in clinical trials.  When Madison was implanted at 13 months, she was one of the youngest cochlear implant candidates in the United States.  She was activated at 14 months, and began the long trek towards spoken language, which included a 140-mile round- trip drive three times a week for essential follow up speech and language therapy. 

When the Mooradians moved to Maine in 2006, they continued Madison’s services through hear ME now, a Falmouth based auditory oral education center.  Maddison has attended Windham schools since Kindergarten and is mainstreamed. The only services she currently receives are two hours per week  with her auditory-oral teacher of the deaf, Katelyn Driscoll, M.E.D., provided through hear ME now.  

Madison said she’s had very few issues around her deafness in school.  Her parents say she has a strong personality, and her confidence shines through as she talks about what she likes to do – including fishing, spending time with her family and playing with her pets.  

Madison and her family volunteer their time to raise awareness on hearing loss.  Madison is a patient advocate for MED-EL, the company that makes the implants she has.  About twice a year, she is flown to national conferences to sit on a patient panel.  When asked how she feels about speaking in public, Maddie said, “I feel comfortable with it because I’ve done it before, and I feel like people should know about it. It’s important.”

Robbyn added that the parents of newly identified deaf infants are often delighted to meet Madison.  “When they meet Madison and see that she’s a normal functioning kid, and has beautiful spoken language - she doesn’t really sound deaf because she had her implants so young - I think it gives families hope and I think they like that,” Robbyn said.

They also represent MED-EL in their booths at the Hearing Loss Association of America  (HLAA) Walk for Hearing events.   Robbyn said that everything they do can make it a little easier for someone behind them dealing with similar issues.

Last year, Maddie went to the State House to speak when funding for hear ME now was in jeopardy, and the bill she was speaking in favor of passed.  “She doesn’t ever stop fighting for things she believes in – and I don’t think she ever will,” Robbyn said.

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